Monday, August 12, 2013

Some "Midway Observations" on "99 Things"

I have a sneaking suspicion some of you are really tired of me talking about the "99 Things" ebook. Some of you may be thinking "for the love of all that is good, please shut up and write about something else!!!" Your wish is my command… sort of ;). 

While I'm not specifically writing a 99 Things post, this project has given me much to think about.

One benefit is that each entry really is its own post. Were I to not reference the 99 Things book, and just post each suggestion and a response to them, they would be able to stand on their own as individual blog entries. Each item allows me to take on a slightly different topic and give my personal take on the ideas. One nice factor of the ebook is that I get a sentence to consider. Each sentence gives me a course of action, or at least a grain of an idea to write about. This makes it easier than if I try to come up with something wholly new or not related to this initiative. 

Other things I have noticed with this experiment:

1. Over the past few weeks I've tried making adjustments and experimenting with post times, and so far, it seems the "Sweet Spots" are to post twice; once at 5:00 a.m., and again at 1:00 p.m. (both Pacific time).

2. I've experimented with generic "auto posting" services and personally setting up an announcement of a new post. When I just use the auto post services, though they do make the announcements at the times I designate, the response is way less than when I personally make announcements and say "hey, a new post is up". If anyone is curious if making personalized "hey, I just put this up, and here's why" vs. "I posted this", with my less than scientific data and observations, the former is way more effective than just using the latter. It makes sense, actually. With the personal quip, I hope I'm giving you a reason to be interested.

3. I've said many times that the more you write, the more you find you are able to write. The less you write, the harder it is to step up and write something new. That seems to hold true here as well. Granted, each topic has already been defined for me (I have a title or a concept at the minimum) but the act of writing twice a day (and often scheduling ahead with certain posts) has definitely make it easier for me to post more. Also, if I get too far ahead (i.e. lots of posts scheduled in advance), I find that letting those days pass by without writing a new post makes it a bit harder to write the next one. Consider it like conditioning for running or lifting weights. Taking one day off isn't a bad thing. Taking multiple days off certainly seems to be. 

4. When I make a goal to do something, I find that the longer I keep that goal going, the more determined I am to keep it going. After about the 4th suggestion, I decided I would post twice a day, and later, that I would schedule those posts for 5:00 am and 1:00 p.m., respectively. I now find that I really don't want to miss those milestones, and that I actually find myself getting anxious if, come bed time, I haven't written something or have something scheduled for the following day.

5. I owe a huge amount of thanks to everyone who has shared this project with others. My blog traffic has gone through the roof compared to regular norms. This leads me to two undeniable conclusions. If you want to increase readership, post high quality stuff, or post a lot of stuff. I'm not entirely sure where I fall on that spectrum, but were I a betting man, I'd guess probably closer to the latter ;).

6. Going through each of these aspects and trying to create a workshop, give some advice or make some comparisons to what I'm doing has lead me to these embarrassing conclusions: 

- The person who needs each of these workshops the most is me
- I may be the least qualified to give other people advice as to what to do. 
- Where I may have felt "Oh, I'm already doing that"… eh, lots of room for improvement there. 

7. It's always interesting to see which posts become runaway favorites. In this case, out of the whole series "Read Articles, Blogs, Forum Posts" is killing it, by a factor of ten to one. There are some fairly obvious reasons; I'm referencing 5Blogs directly and five posts from other writers. Web searches for those articles are leading people to me, possibly since I'm offering my own take and summary. It's always exciting to see a post take off because people like what I write. In this case, I have to accept the fact that it's taking off because of what other people have written. Ah well :).

8. At the end of the day, this whole series is useless unless the end result is that it helps people become better testers. If my suggestions and ideas don't lead people to that place, then this experiment will prove to be a large spot of "navel gazing" and pontification with little benefit. On the bright side, I've already found myself looking at things differently because of me "taking my own medicine", so hey, there is that.

Overall, I am really enjoying this process, and I've enjoyed many of the insights it has given me (and been humbled by quite a few as well). I'm curious to see where the remaining 50% of these suggestions will take me:

- Will I find something that is genuinely uncomfortable? 
- Will I find something that is painful to consider? 
- Will I be embarrassed by something obvious that I should be doing, but am not doing?

Ultimately, I have two answers: 

- The first is "Yes". 

- The second had better be "For my sake, I certainly hope so!"

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